Growing up and even still (sadly), I have quickly been clumped together with the largest Asian country and been called Chinese. Not that there is anything wrong with being Chinese, but people need to know that China and Asia are not synonymous! As a result, I make it a point for my students (and others) to know that I’m Japanese American.
Finding ways for my students to learn more about my Japanese-American history or Japanese heritage is important to me. As educators, we know how necessary it is for us to get to know our students, but it is also important for them to know who we are! This year is the first in seven that I’ve taught students that share my same heritage, but every year students are excited to learn more about the Japanese culture.
I was not born in Japan, nor did I grow up speaking Japanese. Yet, there are aspects of the Japanese culture that my family shared with me. One important tradition was to celebrate Hinamatsuri, Girl’s Day. When we were young, my parents would take out the set of dolls to represent the emperor and empress, but as we grew up, it really just became a day that we’d get special manju, mochi, or other sweet treats.
It was special enough for me that I wanted to share the day with my students as well. It’s always on March 3, and I wanted to share the day with my students yesterday, but it was just too crazy with report cards and a field trip, so we’ll celebrate on Monday.
In the past, I’ve made it seem like all the boys in my class were in trouble and would dismiss the girls first. When the girls left, I’d tell the boys that we were on a secret mission! I’d tell them first about Boy’s day, then about Girl’s day and have them sign a little card for their classmates. One year, a boy even decided to take charge of it! Since we were learning origami in my art class, he decided to make origami backpacks for each of the girls so I could fill it with candy! It was my favorite thing in the world to see this 8th grade class clown secretly making these for the girls in his class!
It was so sweet to see the students embrace a part of my culture and equally hilarious the next day to see how one of the girls used her mini back pack. She walked into class knowing I’d be upset she didn’t have her things, but had taped the miniature backpack to her jacket and even filled it with papers that looked like our class handouts and homework! I miss these middle schoolers!
This year, I’m doing things a little differently. First of all, I’m curious about the implication of splitting boys and girls in my class. As a school, we’re really working towards moving away from this dichotomy when grouping students, so I wondered if I should even continue celebrating Girl’s Day (3/3) and Boy’s Day (5/5). Given that I have a student in my class that identifies differently from how she was born, I thought A LOT about this. I decided that rather than separate the students, I will just have the little card and treat be from me and I will give one to all my students that identify as a girls. Of course, I will place a little Japanese sweet treat on there for them to enjoy as well!
I think all of my students will be just excited as I am about sharing this tradition!